Arts and Entertainment Scene Very Much Alive

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The Vindicator is gone, but the Mahoning Valley’s entertainment scene is very much alive.

I have felt the absence of the Vindy more than most, because I worked there for the past 14 years as entertainment editor. During that time, I covered everything from opera to monster trucks. But as they say, the show must go on.

Toward that end, I am now handling the entertainment beat at The Business Journal. Our goal is to continue the level of arts coverage that this area has come to expect. There might be a few glitches at first, but so far it’s been a smooth transition.

I’m in a different building in downtown Youngstown, but I’ll continue to write about the same performances and exhibitions, as well as the people who present them. To reach me with a news tip, story idea or comment, send an email to or call 330 822 4992.

The Youngstown area has a robust community-theater scene, and that will be part of our coverage. Valley theater veteran J.E. Ballantyne Jr. has been hired as theater critic. He is an actor, director, playwright and producer with decades of expertise.

His first review – for the Youngstown Playhouse’s production of “Dreamgirls” – appeared on the website over the weekend. 

Another popular feature that will debut in the very near future on the website is a calendar of events that will be updated regularly. To get your event listed on it, send us an email at Include the name of the band, performance, festival, lecture or whatever it is, plus the date and time, location (include the address), a brief description if necessary, and a phone number or email address where readers can get more information.

Finally, I will continue to write this weekly column, where I will share thoughts about performances that just took place – or soon will – and other relevant musings.


The Sept. 12 concert by Rob Thomas, who is also the frontman and visionary songwriter of Matchbox Twenty, was the last major show of the season at the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre.

But it wasn’t a Matchbox Twenty concert.

In a solo act, Thomas brought his Chip Tooth Tour to Youngstown and sprinkled in a few of his “other” band’s hits. He took a slower, stripped- down approach to 1996 hit “3 a.m.,” which came out a bit like a country ballad.

He let the song breathe, but kept the energy level on simmer as he did so.

Not that the show was totally restrained. Thomas and his five-piece band, plus two backup singers, cut loose quite often, including on David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” which came midway in his 21-song set.

He finished on a strong note with two of Matchbox Twenty’s biggest hits: A solo acoustic version of “Bent” followed by “Unwell.” 

Before closing with “This Is How a Heart Breaks,” Thomas and company played a note-for-note reproduction of “Smooth,” his 20-year old duet with Carlos Santana off the latter’s “Supernatural” album.

I’ve always felt that Santana’s considerable stock in coolness took a hit because of that annoyingly ubiquitous 1999 song, while Thomas’ probably rose.

The Amp had a country-club atmosphere for Thomas, and while the concert wasn’t bad, I doubt it earned him any converts. Not that he’s looking for any.

“When I’m not doing this I front the world’s greatest pop rock band,” Thomas told the crowd, adding that he and Matchbox Twenty will get together for a tour in the not too distant future.


Susan Davenny Wyner is marking her 20th year as conductor and music director of the Warren Philharmonic Orchestra.

To celebrate the milestone, the WPO will hold a formal reception and dinner in October for members and invited guests.

The orchestra will begin its 2019-20 season Oct. 6 with a concert at First Presbyterian Church of Warren titled “Magic Spells,” featuring works by Verdi, Weber, Bach and Mussorgsky. For tickets, go to or call 330 399 3606.

Davenny, who lives in Boston, is also the music director and conductor of the Boston Midsummer Opera and Youngstown’s Opera Western Reserve, which will present Verdi’s “Macbeth” Nov. 15 at Stambaugh Auditorium.

Image: Rob Thomas (flickr user @cdharrison [CC BY 2.0])

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